Children as young as 6 months old greatly benefit from being read to. You may not realize your baby is taking it all in as you talk about the pictures on each page, turn each page as they sit in your lap, and read the text to them, but they undeniably are soaking it all in. This is, in fact, a critical stage in your child’s reading development.
The Emergent Pre-Reading Stage
As the child is within the stage of emergent pre-reading (typically from ages 6 months to 6 years), he will listen intently to all of the multiple sounds you make, the words, descriptions of images, concepts of the book and print, and chatter from you. This is a highly critical stage, and more important than many parents of babies realize. Exposure to books and talking through the books effectively sets the stage for his future literacy. This can help your children develop the love for reading.
This is all that needs to be accomplished in this stage, as up to the ages of 4-5 years old, in many children, studies point to the fact that the teaching of actual reading is too early. Granted, there is a small percentage that may begin reading pre-kindergarten, but this is a very small percentage. Exposure is the key in this stage. With daily exposure to print and language from the parent or caregiver, the end of this time in the child’s life will consist of the child “pretend” reading, which is when a child looks at the pictures within a book and retells the story in his own words. He also may be able to answer questions about the book when read to, ask questions he is curious about, or even point to specific words in a book and know what they are. This is usually done with a book that they have been very much exposed to in repeated readings.
The Beginning Reader Stage
In this stage, patience is very essential. All children learn to read at very different rates. Although each stage is variably consistent within the age levels, it is important to understand that each child is unique and will learn at his own pace. Our society has put a lot of pressure on children learning to read very early, sometimes too early, when in fact, they may not be developmentally ready. You must understand different stages of development.
This stage is an amazing stage. Your child will amaze you with their growing knowledge of literacy. Exposing him to pictures and vocabulary will enrich his ability to connect spoken words to print. In addition to pictures and vocabulary acquisition, teaching them how to listen for phonemes, or specific sounds in each word, is as significant as learning the alphabet. In addition to familiarizing him with the alphabet letters and sounds, simultaneously focusing on his listening of each distinct phoneme in words will aid him in putting it all together. For example, teaching him that the beginning sound in the word “dog” is not the letter “d”, but the sound that a “d” makes. The individual sound is just as important as identifying the letter.
Typically, children are taught to recognize the first sound they hear within words. The beginning sound is then followed by teaching them to listen for the ending sound of words. The medial vowel, or middle sound, is usually the last sound they really connect to a letter. This is why you see many very beginning writing by 5-year-olds with the beginning letter and ending letter, such as the word “dog” may be “spelled” d-g, leaving out the letter “o”.
Incorporating the meaning of stories as well as basic phonics, or appropriate letters of each word, is equally important in learning to read. In these beginning stages of literacy, building a strong foundation is directly related to successful literacy later on. With a strong foundation from the emergent and beginning stages of reading, the child will move forward in their literacy with the guidance of his parents, caregiver, and school teacher.
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